The Minimum Wage Impasse

LEGISLATION on minimum wage has become an essential activity in all parts of the world. In Nigeria, the history of national minimum wage is replete with crises, protests and serious agitations from workers. Put differently, minimum wage has become a contending issue since it was introduced in the country since 1980. According to International Labour Organisation (ILO), minimum wage exists in more than 90 percent member states including Nigeria. Minimum wages have been described as the minimum amount of remuneration that an employer is required to pay wage earners for the work performed during a given period, which cannot be reduced by collective agreement or an individual contract.

         INCIDENTALLY, The Nigerian economy is undergoing challenges on many fronts. Inflation is 29.90 percent, the debt stock is N87.9 trillion, the tending rate is 18.75 percent, the naira is badly  depreciated at N1,500 per  dollar  all aggravating the cost of living crisis. In January, food inflation accelerated to 35.41 percent from  23.75 percent in December 2022 and 33.93 percent in December 2023. Petrol and diesel, the livewire  of the  economy have witnessed rapid price increases.

FROM the foregoing, labour is surely within its rights to demand an upward wage review. Unfortunately, since the minimum wage regime was introduced in Nigeria, it has always pitched the workers against the government especially at the state level where many state governments over the years find it difficult or unwilling to pay the minimum wage to their workers. It is a sad commentary that some of them have failed to pay the current N30,000 minimum wage that is grossly inadequate to support the workers presently

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 THEREFORE, in the light of the prevailing high cost of living and the fact that the government has set up a tripartite committee to fashion out a new national minimum wage for the country, all hands must be on deck to accomplish the task of instituting acceptable living wage for workers amidst the present unprecedented inflation and high cost of living in the country.

HOWEVER, recent development does not suggest that the government is ready and committed to finding solution to the current minimum wage impasse because of the lack-luster attitude and approach to the issue in the past six months. For instance, while the organized labour proposed  N615,000  based on some verifiable facts and figure the government after over six months only offered to pay the workers paltry N48,000 while the organized private sector offered N52,000. This has forced the organised labour to stage a walk out from the meeting of the tripartite committee. Prior to this, the organised labour had issued an ultimatum giving the government till the end of May to implement acceptable minimum wage after which they will not guarantee industrial peace in the country.

THE  government should listen to the workers and agree on a living wage for them because  the various reforms by the government including the removal of fuel subsidy and the unification of the foreign exchange market have pushed the cost of living to newer levels where the current  income have become grossly inadequate to meet their needs. Also  the last wage review in 2019 made it mandatory for the review of the minimum  wage of N30,000 after five years. Unfortunately, five years on, the wage is yet to be amended while the present stance of government does not suggest positive action soon.

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HOWEVER, some hours before the 2024 Workers Day on May 1, 2024, the Salary and Wages Commission issued a release that the federal government had reviewed upward workers’ salaries to between 25 and 35 percent. Again, this is coming against the backdrop of non-implementation and partial implementation of the 2019 minimum wage by some state governments. However, some proactive and workers friendly states such as Edo and Lagos have increased minimum wage to 70,000 and 75,000  respectively.

BEYOND  the usual wage increase, government at all levels should focus on other aspects of workers conditions such as  easy access to consumer commodities at affordable prices, affordable housing and other services that support good living. In better climes, workers do not need to fight or agitate before their salaries are reviewed upwards according to the level of inflation by the agencies created to accomplish such purpose.  Therefore, Salaries and Wages Commission should be alive to its responsibility of periodic review of workers’ salaries in line with best global practices.

THE government must do everything possible to introduce new minimum wage before the end of the month to ensure industrial harmony in the country and promote the welfare and prosperity of Nigerian workers that have been seriously eroded by inflation and high cost of living in recent times.  The state governments should not renege on minimum wage legislation when it is finally enacted.

The Minimum Wage Impasse

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The Minimum Wage Impasse

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